Harris Doubles Down on Unilateral Gun Control Plan

Portrait of Kamala Harris of California. Photo by United States Senate, May 12, 2017.

Speaking at a town hall event in Nashua, New Hampshire on Wednesday, California Senator and presidential candidate for Democratic nomination Kamala Harris announced her plans as President to executively ban the import of AR-15 rifles should Congress fail to do so within her first 100 days in office.  

In her speech, Harris outlined her campaign’s position on gun control measures, declaring that “when elected President of the United States, I am prepared to give the United States Congress 100 days to pull their act together and put a bill on my table.” She added that “if they do not, I am prepared to take executive action to require that anyone who sells more than 5 guns a year will be required to conduct background checks – it will end up being the most comprehensive national policy around background checks.” Harris also stated that “I am prepared to require that the ATF take the licenses of gun dealers who fail to follow the law.”

Harris then turned her focus more specifically towards semiautomatic rifles:

So when we look at the issue of assault weapons, let’s be really clear: assault weapons are designed to kill a lot of people in a very short period of time. Let’s look at the facts: one in four police officers who is killed in the line of duty by gunfire is killed by an assault weapon. Let’s look at the fact that there are 4 million assault weapons in the United States which were imported here from foreign countries.

So I am also prepared – and I’m announcing it for the first time today here with you – to take executive action to ban the import of assault weapons into our country. And I’ll tell you, I think this has got to be something that is understood that we cannot any longer afford to allow people to make this a partisan issue. Those guns, those assault weapons do not discriminate and determine, okay, is the person pointing it at, is it a Democrat or a Republican? This cannot any longer be a partisan issue, and in fact, President Bush knew that and President Clinton knew that. Both of them used executive action for similar reasons, so let’s speak truth on this issue.

Sen. Harris, Nashua Town Hall Event

According to a 2015 estimate from the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the total number of “modern sporting rifles” (semiautomatic rifles like the AR-15) in the United States is between 15 and 20 million. That figure includes weapons produced for law enforcement. 4 million firearms would amount to between 20% and 26.7% of this total.

As Harris claimed, there is historical precedent for her proposal.

Following a shooting in January 1989 at Cleveland Elementary School in Stockton, California, President George H. W. Bush in March banned the import of 50 types of semiautomatic weapons indefinitely. Current National Rifle Association CEO Wayne LaPierre, who was director of the association’s lobbying division at the time, supported the move, saying that it would dampen “media hysteria” and that it “should provide an atmosphere for a reasoned and sensible debate” on the legitimacy of such weapons.  The ATF found that 43 of those weapons failed the so-called “sporting purpose” test, and the ban on those weapons was made permanent in July of that year.

The ATF later identified 58 other such weapons that could not be classified as sporting weapons, and in 1998, President Clinton banned the import of these firearms as well.

According to the FBI, rifles accounted for 403 of the 10,982 firearm homicides in the United States in 2017.

New Jersey Senator Cory Booker, Harris’ fellow candidate for Democratic nomination, has also rolled out a sweeping gun control proposal. His plan requires people seeking to buy a gun to apply first for a 5 year license, which includes submitting fingerprints, sitting for an interview, undergoing a federal background check, and completing a gun safety course. It also calls for banning bump stocks, limiting bulk purchases of firearms, and closing loopholes allowing domestic abusers and people on terrorist watch lists to buy firearms. However, Booker’s proposal would depend upon legislation rather than unilateral executive action. Senator Harris’ plan would not.

For What It’s Worth

Charles C.W. Cooke at National Review points out that Harris’ plan would likely backfire, as it would affect only a small percent of total AR-15 style weapons in the country. He also argues that the aggressive action by the President would probably drive demand for more domestically-produced semiautomatic weapons and increase the number of Americans involved in their production, thus decreasing the support for a ban.

In other words…#winning.

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About TheStig 50 Articles
Likes going in circles but never getting anywhere. So basically politics.